"Studying the Conditions for Planet Formation in Circumstellar Disks"

Using the high spatial resolution and sensitivity of the Hubble Space and large ground based telescopes, I am studying dusty circumstellar disks as the birthplaces of planetary systems. The observations elucidate disk geometries and dust composition and in an ensemble fashion teach us about the evolution of disks and the timescales for planet formation within them. In this talk, I will show visual and near-infrared multicolor imaging and mid-infrared spectroscopy of disks around stars which are all about 10 Myr old, yet which vary dramatically in physical size, morphology and composition. We have seen evidence for carbon rich chemistries around several disks, as well as evidence that even at this young age, embryonic planets may be modifying their envrionments.